Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PR Week 3: Arecibo n'at


I forgot one very important detail about Ponce.

So, at the Sat afternoon show (I think) there was this super old guy in a cowboy hat sitting in the front row next to the ring. Anytime anything exciting happened in the ring the guy would throw is arms either up in the air or over his head OMFG style. After the trick landed the arms would fly back up and he'd give this 'OLE!' type gesture, hat in hand. One more than one occasion the dude got up and walked toward the ring trying to converse with the performers. During Stas and Vas' act he leaned over and from our vantage point looked like he was trying to buy Vas a beer. By the time Finale came around he was up on his feet hands flying in the air again. As the performers ran past he extended his hand and received a much deserved hi-five from the majority of the performers. Absolutely classic! After the show I was hanging back by the sound board and the dude comes up and gives me a big hug and starts in:

"Ah! Puerto Rican!" :gestures to himself: "Puerto Rican People. American People!" "God bless God bless!"

It was later discovered the dude was in his 90s, had gone through 4 wives, and took Viagra every single day.

I now have something to strive for when I become a crazy ass old man.


OK, onto Arecibo.....

As I boarded the bus leaving Ponce I was expecting to chill and enjoy a relaxing ride up the west such luck.

Things started out well enough until we hopped off the interstate onto that skinny ass, windy, road of death we had traversed in search of the waterfall. Keep in mind we were in a huge freaking bus. T'was entertaining to say the least. The were several corners rounded the nearly resulted in head on collision with semis. Even more entertaining was watching the impatient Puerto Rican drivers zip past the bus on blind curves and avoid death by inches serving out the way of oncoming traffic.

**Side Note** I will be forever confused as to how s-l-l-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-w all other aspects of Puerto Rico (food service esp) are except for their batshit crazy drivers. What gives?

We survived the drive and ended up at our destination: El Buen Cafe Hotel and Restaurant.

The hotel was still better than the good 'ole Diamond Palace, but it wasn't nearly as nice as the HoJo in Ponce. One saving grace was that we were only a couple blocks from an incredible beach (not the swimming kind but the climb on rocks and narrowly escape death from waves kind).

There was this huge Prudential Rock looking thing jutting out of the water a bit off shore so we decided to go climb it. The water was relatively shallow but there were tons rocks poking out here and there and a suuuuuper strong current. Wasn't the smartest idea to venture out there but what's the point of being in Puerto Rico if you aren't going to cheat death multiple times? We made it across but soon regretted not bringing our sandals. Pointy. Ass. Rocks. Everywhere. Our feet were sufficiently sliced up by the time we made it back to shore (against a much stronger current that when we came out mind you). There were other spots on the beach where the rock formations were transformed into very cool mini-waterfalls when the monster waves slammed against them.

Next to the beach we discovered a very surreal "playground" area:

Back to beach adventures however. There was a pack of 5 stray dogs we ran into everyday just chillin' on the beach. We also encountered an huge Iguana on the beach that took off into the water as we came near, swam his ass off, and chilled on some rocks giving us the evil eye.

The "new" arena we played in Arecibo was hardly that. The first sign of trouble was during load in when the show had to kick out some random homeless dude who was sleeping on a couch in the production office. The only bathrooms they had were backstage and the building tries to talk the show into letting the public come back during intermission to use

We made one excursion on our last day with one of the gals working at the hotel out to Isabella to chill on a more 'swimming appropriate' beach. After a few drinks however, Davie and I went off to climb more scary rocks and almost die yet again. Soooooo many cool ass rock formations with the huge waves just smashing around everywhere. Pointless to try to put it into words. Even the pics don't quite translate the awesomeness.

That night there was a birthday bash for Marty outside of a few of the villas. It was also Gob Bluth Magic Man Joel Ward's last night with the show.

During Finale of the final show the previous day, a card was left in Joel's dressing room reading 'Good Luck'. And as a endearing parting gesture a huge piece of elephant shit complete with candles was ceremoniously placed upon the paper.

At the party, Marty decided after all the tricks illusions Joel had treated us to it was time for Joel to be the assistant for Marty's magic trick.

It would have probably made more sense to take the plastic covering off the cake BEFORE having Joel stand next to it with his eyes closed but he was a good sport aboot it, kept his eyes closed, and awaited what was obviously coming.


Holy crap. Marty slammed him so freaking hard we were sure he had broken his nose. Cake was splattered on people several yards away. A fitting farewell.

That pretty much wraps up Puerto Rico. I am definitely planning on going back at some point and exploring the rest of the island, but at that point I was ready for another week home in Pittsburgh.



Ponce and Beyond

The bus rolled out around 10:30 Monday morning for Ponce. Ponce is the 2nd largest city on the island located on the coast in SW PR. The diversity of the landscape really revealed itself as wound our way around the island. It's only about 35 miles top to bottom and 145ish across but has such an incredible smorgasbord of Mountains, Ocean, rolling hills, rain forest, caves, and plains.

It seemed like around every corner there was a collective gasp of "Whhaaaaat? Whoooaaahhhh!" from most of the bus.

On the edge of the Ponce city limits there were these 'uuuuge stand alone letters stretched across the road spelling out P-O-N-C-E. Pretty neat.

The hotel in Ponce was infinitely cleaner, more comfortable, and WIFI equipped than the Shit Palace. The unfortunately thing was that we weren't near anything.

Well, except for the 'Chicken Shack' outside the hotel which provided some awesome food

Our proximity to civilization problem was rather easily remedied by renting a car for the week. We split it 4 ways so it was totally affordable and as we were to discover over the next few days.....a very FUN decision.

We got the car Tuesday and headed down in search of a beach. What we found I suppose could technically be classified as a "beach" but there was def no swimming. Very rocky and had the 'Syringe Beach' feel to it. A boardwalk area "La Guancha" was rumored to be right next to said beach so we went in search of it.....and ended up driving through some random neighborhood avoiding roaming stray dogs and getting plenty of odd looks from the residents. Eventually we headed back to the huuuuuuge parking lot by the beach after realizing there was no way all of that parking was just for the beach. Sure enough the row of buildings next to the beach we dismissed as 'private harbor area' was most definitely 'La Guancha'. Oops.

It was completely dead being Tuesday night but I did see one of the most incredible sunsets ever:

Not bad.

The next day Steve and I made our way into downtown to a'splore a bit. Very cool architecture but def a very teeeeny town compared to San Juan. We checked out the Ponce History Museum and I realized I can read and comprehend quite a bit of Spanish but conversing without sounding like a complete fool is a different story.

B and I went to a local watering hole down the street a bit from the hotel for 'College Night'. One thing I had not experienced up until that point was being a complete minority in a bar. I mean the record player didn't scratch and stop as everyone slowly turned their heads toward us but we were definitely observed. The gals in the place seemed approachable even with the potential language barrier but the dudes (who greatly outnumbered the gals) stared right through us daring us to approach anyone and make it back to our car at the end of the night without being followed. So we abstained. A local band was setting up so we stayed for a bit and were treated to some shitty ass rock. Good to see crappy bands exist everywhere....made me feel more at home.

The real adventure started the next morning as we set out for Fajardo and some Snorkeling radness. $70 bought us a 5 hour Snorkelfest complete with free drinks, lunch, and an awesome crew. Very cool experience and chance to bro-down.

The next morning (I think?) we were off in search of a waterfall in the middle of the island. Davie was stuck at Tiger practice so we unfortunately had to leave him behind. Even in the tiny-ass rental car we feared for our lives on more than one occasion careening up and around the twisty-est, steepest, scariest ass mountain roads ever. Seriously, this shit made Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen look like freakin' Kansas.

We never got completely lost but ended up in some interesting places. We took one side road that was even steeper and more narrow than the 'main' road where we eventually had to pull a U-Turn and noticed on the way back down the couple of overturned cars in ditches off to the side.

We continued on our journey through some moderately shady neighborhoods. Eventually when we were beginning to lose hope Grooms says "that looks like a waterfall through those trees there". There were two pseudo-pull off spots on either side of the road so it was decided an investigation was in order. After trekking down some very steep natural steps we found what we were looking for. The water fall wasn't huge but was still super bad-ass. It emptied into this little pool that was deep enough to swim in the spilled over the edge emptying into this lagoon type area with some large cliffs on the opposite side.

The way to get across was to utilize the vine someone had attached to a tree off to the side and lower yourself down. After that you battled some slippery ass rocks and swam across the channel. There was no way we were leaving without partaking in some cliff-jumpin'. Holy crap. What a freaking rush. The water was plenty deep and freezing cold. After a couple jumps I swam back over, scaled the slippy rocks and grabbed my camera to capture one my my Comrade's leaps. Unfortunately there was no way to get any footage of myself jumping off but B's jump sums up the radness:

On the way back, we stopped at a little side of the road joint and chowed on some super authentic PR specialities.

The rest of the week included a trip to La Guancha on the weekend and an unsuccessful attempt to find another bar ending in yet another scary ass drive through some rather unflattering parts of Ponce.

While San Juan was fun for the swank nightlife Ponce was much more enjoyable thanks to the awesome adventures and predicaments we got ourselves into.

Off to Arecibo....the city that made Ponce look like San Juan. Woot.